The Status of Indiana Road Building, 1928

Within the first decade of the second creation of the Indiana State Highway Commission, the state found itself building, maintaining and upgrading roads at a furious pace. Up to that point, the ISHC was taking over roads slowly. This also meant that paving of those roads was slowly creeping forward. But 1928 saw the biggest improvement in state highways to that time. The Indianapolis Star of 16 January 1929 had an entire section called the “Good Roads Review” that covered the feat.

After the passing of the second ISHC act in 1919, the state started adding to the highway system as it could. A limiting factor, at the time, was money. The ISHC finances were slow in coming together. But it was also important to hold to the mandate of connecting the seats of government for each of the 92 Indiana counties to each other via state highways. A program of road and bridge building was pushed by Governor Harry Leslie in 1928. To that end, the ISHC was hoping for a large infusion of money to further the program, and to put Indiana on par with its neighbors when it came to good quality roads. Governor Leslie addressed the General Assembly to pass a bill to give the ISHC an additional 5 to 6 million dollars for the goal.

At the time, the state highway system consisted of 5,000 miles of roads, 2,800 of which were still in need of improvement. Most state highways at the time were gravel. But maintenance costs were skyrocketing due to major increases in traffic. This led the ISHC to believe that paving, instead of maintaining, these roads was both more cost effective and beneficial to the motorist of the Hoosier State.

At the close of the 1928 fiscal year, Indiana had improved 1,060.1 miles of its Federal aid highway system. Most of that was spent towards paving the roads, not just maintaining them. To put it into perspective, Indiana had 4,701.5 miles of Federal aid roads at the end of the same fiscal year. That meant that only 22.5 percent of those road had been improved. This put Indiana 31st in the Union when it came to the mileage of those roads. Most other states were gravelling roads as Indiana was pushing concrete road surfaces. Texas, for example, had completed as much as 50% of their Federal aid roads, much of that in gravel.

The government of the state had placed a higher priority on the “more bang for the buck” idea of infrastructure improvements. This stemmed from when the state would just throw money at projects, and almost had to file for bankruptcy. That in turn led to the Indiana Constitution of 1851, which forced financial responsibility on the government.

But that didn’t help Indiana in the sheer numbers of paved mileage. Illinois and Michigan both had 6,000 miles of paved road. Ohio had 11,000. Kentucky, at the end of 1928, had 4,000.

The plan for 1929 called for 220 miles of paved roads to be added to the state highway system. The Star listed those projects in the collection of articles. US 24 (called State Road 24 in the newspaper – there is no difference, really) would have 75 miles of paving done in 1929: 35 miles between Monticello and Huntington; and 40 miles at the eastern end of the road. US 50 between Vincennes and Aurora would add 50 miles of pavement. SR 29 between Greensburg and Shelbyville, 27 miles, would also get the same treatment. Another planned project was 27 miles of SR 37 between Bloomington and Bedford.

Two gaps in US 27 between Fort Wayne and Richmond would be completed during the summer of 1929. One, a 12 mile stretch north of Winchester. The other, 10 miles south of Berne. SR 16 was planned for 15 miles of paving between Rensselaer and Remington. The last project listed included US 150, with about two miles near West Baden on the list.

The Beginning, and End, of SR 534

As the Indiana State Highway Commission’s inventory of state roads was growing, the thought of putting a bypass around the city of Indianapolis hit the planning sheets. The original plan started appearing on official highway maps in 1932. But little would be done for almost a decade. In 1941, the start of a bypass road was contracted…and built. But there was more to it than just a section along the east side from Fort Harrison to Nora.

Yes, that’s right. From Fort Harrison to Nora. The original road that was started in 1941 followed 56th Street from Fort Harrison out to a new construction road along what was, and still is, the Shadeland corridor. At the time, it was Shadeland Road. But that corridor only ran from 10th Street to 56th Street, creating a dead end road north of 56th Street into the Woolen Gardens. A complete history of the road is available as “SR 100: How did it come to be?

The Indianapolis News, 24 July 1941
Legal notice for contract to build SR 534 from
56th Street to Castleton.

Things started happening on the bypass route in 1941, when the first contracts were let. As is typical of the ISHC at the time, the road was contracted separately from the bridges. The first contracts for the road were let in July 1941. The legal notices were published for the contract, as shown on the left. The bids were to be in the hands of the ISHC by 5 August 1941 at 10 AM Central Standard Time (the time zone Indianapolis was in at the time). The plan was for a reinforced concrete road surface north from 56th Street to the old state road that turned west along what is now 82nd Street.

The bridge over Fall Creek was let out for contract in September 1941, with the description “structure on State Road 534” details as a five span arch bridge “over Fall Creek, 2.7 Mi. North of Lawrence.” Those spans were to be, in order: one at 40 feet; three at 80 feet, and one at 40 feet. The bridge was to be of reinforced concrete arch design. Bids were to be at the ISHC by 10 AM CST on 7 October 1941.

The next leg of the road was published for contract in December 1941, with a due date of 16 December 1941. It was to include 4.578 miles of reinforced concrete from Nora to Castleton. (For the route prior to SR 534 construction, check out 82nd and 86th Street Before SR 534 (SR 100).) This would complete the first opened section of SR 534 in Indiana.

Then World War II started.

The Indianapolis News, of 21 December 1942, opined that the ISHC was in a holding pattern when it came to the building of the bypass road. The road was not mentioned by number, but the route was discussed. “One link, approaching Ft. Benjamin Harrison by way of Allisonville and Castleton, has been completed and is in use. The belt highway, discussed for years, will extend south, intersection Roads 40, 52 and 29, until it reaches the Thompson Road, where it will continue west, intersecting Roads 31, 37 and 67.” With the Shadeland Road corridor only extending as far as 10th Street, this would require the acquisition of right-of-way and building of four miles of new road from 10th Street to Troy Avenue/Southeastern Avenue/SR 29. South from here, the road was already in place as the Five Points Road.

“At Valley Mills it will turn north, crossing roads 40, 36 and 34, eventually intersecting Road 52, where it will join the northern east-and-west link that has been built.” This would put the road along the High School Road corridor on the west side. This would also include a state road that connected US 40 to the Indianapolis Municipal Airport. That state road was designated SR 100 when it was commissioned.

“The practical value of such a construction program has long been recognized, both for ordinary traffic and for commercial vehicles that will be enabled to by-pass Indianapolis without contributing to traffic congestion be traversing the downtown streets.”

The article concluded as follows: “A belt line around Indianapolis has been considered ever since the old days of the “Dandy Trail” when gravel roads were marked and motorists wore linen dusters. The successor to that trail is one of the numerous tasks that are being held in abeyance until the war is won.”

The designation of SR 534 would be applied to the east leg from Washington Street north to 82nd Street, then along the 82nd/86th Street corridor to SR 29, Michigan Road. In the summer of 1949, the following was published in the Indianapolis News: “Some of our highways are known by name as well as number. Thus the route called State Road 534 could be more easily found if you called it Shadeland Drive. This road, leading north from Road 40, east of Indianapolis, intersects with Roads 31, 431, 37, 52 and 29 and is part of what, some day, will be a belt line around the city. But what we started out to say is that on the new Indiana highway maps it is 534 no longer. The new number is 100.”

And with that, the ISHC removed one of the “daughters” of State Road 34, stretching the SR 100 designation from a short section of High School Road to the entire bypass. Or, at least, the sections that would be completed before it was entirely replaced by Interstate 465.

End of Year 1940: ISHC Projects and Contract Bidding

On 13 December 1940, it was announced that the Indiana State Highway Commission was about to open some bidding on projects, and that the bidding would be received by 31 December. These projects included four grade separations, eight bridges and thirty miles of paving and resurfacing.

Sherman Drive and Big Four, 1937
Sherman Drive and Big Four, 1962

One of the biggest projects on the bidding list involved a city street in Indianapolis. Sherman Drive, a major thoroughfare three miles east of the center of Indianapolis, crossed the Big Four Railroad northeast of the railroad’s major yards at Beech Grove. That yard is just over one mile southeast of the Sherman Drive. According to the press release from the ISHC, “among the grade separations to be built are a 13-span structure on Sherman Drive southeast of Indianapolis, to carry traffic over the CCC & St. Louis Railroad yard.” As shown in the picture to the left, this was an at grade crossing of multiple tracks. The picture at the right shows the same area of Sherman Drive in 1962.

Another bridge project opened for bidding at this time was grade separation on the Marion State Road 9 Bypass, crossing over the Chesapeake & Ohio and the Pennsylvania Railroads. That bridge was planned to be a seven span structure. Another bridge to be built in the Marion area was a 392-foot structure over the Mississinewa River on the same SR 9 bypass. The bridge was to have a 28 foot roadway and sidewalks.

Paving projects included in this round of bidding were: 1.291 miles of US 50 realignment in Washington, Daviess County; 4.938 of SR 1 paving from Leo north to Allen-Dekalb County Line in Allen County; and paving 2.391 miles of SR 9 bypass (Baldwin Avenue) from Second Street in Marion, Grant County.

Another SR 9 project in Grant (and Huntington) County included widening and resurfacing 21.30 miles of SR 9 from 1/2 mile north of Marion to Huntington. The road was to be widened to 22-foot wide. Also in Madison County would be the widening of three miles SR 9 from SR 67 north to the Anderson city limits.

The last road project would be the widening and resurfacing of US 31 from the north edge of Franklin to the south edge of Greenwood, through Whiteland and New Whiteland. This contract would include 9.1 miles of highway.

Guard rail projects were also part of the bidding. Those installations would be in Adams, Allen, Dekalb, Elkhart, Floyd, Franklin, Grant, Hamilton, Hancock, Henry, Huntington, Jackson, Jennings, Johnson, LaGrange, Lawrence, Madison, Marion, Miami, Monroe, Morgan, Noble, Randolph, Steuben, Union, Wabash and Whitley Counties. These were on roads 3, 6, 9, 13, 15, 18, 20, 22, 24, 27, 29, 31, 37, 44, 50, 52, 67, 109, 128, 150, 209, 327, 427 and 434.

Connecting 16th Street from US 52 to SR 29

When I posted about routes to get to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, someone of Facebook had posted a comment about the direct route using Indiana Avenue and 16th Street from downtown Indianapolis. I responded that part of the problem was that 16th Street, at the time (1919) did not exist between Lafayette Road and Northwestern Avenue (now Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street). After crossing the White River on the Emrichsville Bridge, the streets turned either north onto White River Parkway East Drive or southeast onto what was Crawfordsville Road.

The junction of Indiana Avenue/10th Street/Fall Creek/
Crawfordsville Road

It should also be noted that the most people, at that time, thought of Crawfordsville Road (now Waterway Boulevard) as the first choice as it was the one that had been in place the longest. Indiana Avenue came long after the Crawfordsville Road, and both of those streets connected to Indiana Avenue at 10th Street across Fall Creek. The moving of the south end of Waterway Boulevard, as it is today, didn’t happen until sometime after World War II.

But west of the White River, at 16th Street, was both US 52 (Lafayette Road) and SR 34 (16th Street). The state roads followed White River West Drive to Washington Street, because the road didn’t exist east of the river. This would connect US 52 (and possibly SR 34) to US 40 under what is now the Indianapolis Zoo.

It would be shortly after the 1919 map was published that 16th Street would be built from Indiana Avenue to the Emrichsville Bridge. But that was the extent of the new 16th Street. And even then, the 16th Street that was built was north of where it should have been. 16th Street through Marion County, of most of it, is along the half section line. Since the Emrichsville Bridge was angled north as it crossed west to east, 16th Street would be connected north of the half-section line where it belonged.

1926 Indianapolis map of the sections of 16th Street at that time between White River and Northwestern Avenue.

Fast forward to 1933. The Indianapolis Board of Public Works decided on several projects to be completed during the 1934 construction season. Two of the projects included bridges over Fall Creek. One of those would be on 16th Street. By this time, there was a short section of 16th Street from Gent Avenue to Fall Creek and just barely west of Northwestern Avenue.

The bridge over Fall Creek would allow connection between the two sections of 16th Street. Another part of the project would be widening the road that was there. In 1934 money, the project to construct and widen 16th Street from Northwestern Avenue to the Emrichsville Bridge would cost $280,000. The new bridge over Fall Creek would cost $250,000.

A remodel of the Emrichsville Bridge would also be part of the project. The northwest wing of the bridge would be cut off and the south sidewalk to be completely removed to create a better turning angle between the sections of 16th Street on either end. The city wouldn’t have to foot the entire bill for the new construction and widening. The city was working with the Indiana State Highway Commission for federal funding (at that time, a 50/50 split) for the project as the state would most likely (and did) add that section of 16th Street to the state highway system as part of US 52 and SR 34.

Another part of this project would be the widening of West Street from 16th Street to Bluff Road. From Washington Street north West Street was SR 29. From Washington Street south, it would become SR 37. Again, the cost would be shared between the ISHC and the federal government.

Indianapolis News, 27 October 1948

The Emrichsville Bridge would last another 14 years. It was torn down in 1948 to create a wider, more direct bridge for 16th Street/US 52/SR 34 across White River. Ultimately, the new 16th Street from White River to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street would look as it does in the Google map shown below. It would also remain a state road until the late 1970s, when US 136 (formerly SR 34) was removed from inside the I-465 loop. US 52 had been the first removed and rerouted along I-465 when that road was complete from the northwest side to the southeast side.

Indianapolis and the Original ISHC State Road System

I have posted much about the creation of the Indiana State Highway Commission. As of the posting of this article, the age of the Commission is either 103 or 101 years old. The original ISHC was established in 1917…but met with a lot of problems. It was finally nailed down in 1919 and made permanent.

This also creates a dating problem when it comes to the state highways. The first five state highways, then known as Main Market Roads, were established in 1917 with the original ISHC. Two of those original Main Market Highways connected to Indianapolis. The original National Road had been given the number Main Market Road 3. The Range Line Road, connecting Indianapolis to Peru, and through further connections, to South Bend, was given the Main Market Road 1 label.

When it was finally established, the ISHC changed the name of the Main Market Road to State Road, in keeping with other states surrounding Indiana. The markers used along the roads, painted onto utility poles like the old Auto Trail markers were, resembled the image to the left…the state shape with the words “STATE ROAD” and the route number. In this case, as of 1920, State Road 2 was the original route of the Lincoln Highway through northern Indiana.

The state highway system was designed to, eventually, connect every county seat and town of over 5,000 population, to each other. Indianapolis, as the state capital and the largest city in the state, would have connections aiming in every direction. Most of those roads marked with the original numbers would still be state roads into the 1970s and early 1980s, before the Indiana Department of Highways started removing state roads inside the Interstate 465 loop…and INDOT finishing the job on 1 July 1999. These road were removed for state statutory limitation reasons, and I have discussed that in a previous blog entry. So I won’t do it here.

The original state road numbers that came to Indiana varied greatly, as did their directions. There were no set rules when it came to state road numbers. They were assigned as they came…and stayed that way until the first renumbering of 1923, or the Great Renumbering of 1926.

Let’s look at the original state roads in Marion County, some of which actually did not reach Indianapolis itself.

State Road 1: As mentioned before, State Road 1 was originally called Main Market Highway 1. North of Indianapolis, it followed the Range Line Road, a local Auto Trail, through Carmel, Westfield, to Kokomo and points north. The route north followed Meridian Street north to Westfield Boulevard, then Westfield Boulevard on out to Carmel and beyond. In Carmel, the old road is still called Range Line Road, and serves as the main north-south drag through the town, as it does in Westfield.

South of Indianapolis, State Road 1, like its Main Market Highway predecessor, followed the old Madison State Road out of the city to Southport, Greenwood, Franklin and Columbus. The original SR 1 route is still able to be driven through the south side of Indianapolis, with the exception of the section replaced in the 1950s by the Madison Avenue Expressway. But Old Madison Avenue exists, if you can find your way back there.

While the entirety of original State Road 1 became US 31 with the Great Renumbering, bypasses in Marion County were put in place very early. The northern section, through Broad Ripple, and Carmel was replaced as early as 1930. The southern section, including the Southport/Greenwood bypass, was put in place in the 1940s.

State Road 3: As mentioned above, Main Market Highway/State Road 3 followed the National Road through Marion County. One exception to this is the section of the 1830s National Road that crossed the White River downtown. That section of the old road was removed in 1904 with the demolition of the National Road covered bridge and its replacement with a new, and short lived, Washington Street bridge. With a couple of exceptions other than that (the Bridgeport straightening of the early 1930s, and the new Eagle Creek bridge built in the late 1930s), the old road was followed very accurately until the mid-1980s with the creation of White River State Park. The successor to original SR 3, US 40, was moved to make room for the park. Both US 40 and US 31 lost their designations on 1 July 1999 with the removal of those two routes inside the I-465 loop.

State Road 6: This old state road was a through route when it came to Marion County. From the north, it followed the route of the original Indianapolis-Lafayette State Road from Lebanon. After passing through downtown Indianapolis, it left the county using the original Michigan Road on its way to Shelbyville and Greensburg. The original State Road 6 followed the Michigan Road Auto Trail, not the Historic Michigan Road, meaning it still went to Madison, but it went by way of Versailles, which the historic road did not. With the Great Renumbering, the northern SR 6 became US 52, while the southern SR 6 became SR 29 – later to be renumbered again to US 421.

State Road 22: This road, as it was originally laid out, only lasted from 1920 to 1923. Out of Indianapolis, it followed the old Mooresville State Road through southwestern Marion County. It was designated the original route from Indianapolis to Martinsville, as described in this blog entry. This road will be discussed again a few paragraphs from now.

State Road 39: Another 1830s state road that was taken into the Indiana State Highway Commission’s custody in 1919. This road followed the old Brookville State Road from the National Road out of the county through New Palestine to Rushville and Brookville. The original end of that road, both the 1830s original and the 1919 state highway, is discussed here. The road would become, in October 1926, the other section of US 52 through Indianapolis. It would also eventually become the first state highway removed inside the I-465 loop in Marion County. And even then, it would be rerouted in the late 1990s to go the other way around the county.

That covers the 1919 highways. More would come to Marion County before 1923.

State Road 12: Originally, this road, north of Martinsville, was the old State Road 22 mentioned above. When a new SR 22 was created, the SR 12 number was continued from Martinsville to Indianapolis along the old Vincennes and Mooresville State Roads. This road, in October 1926, would become part of the new State Road 67.

State Road 15: While the southern route of the Michigan Road was State Road 6, the northern part, heading off to Logansport, was added later and given the number State Road 15. The entire route of the historic Michigan Road would never become a state highway, but major sections did…although late in the creation of the state highway system. With the Great Renumbering, this road became SR 29, and in 1951, redesignated, like its southern half, US 421.

State Road 22: Here we go again. State Road 22 was given to the route between Indianapolis and Paoli. In 1919, that included the route along the west bank of the White River from Martinsville to Indianapolis along the Mooresville Road. This was changed by 1923 to keep SR 22 on the east side of White River, where it followed the old Paoli State Road, and the Bluff Road, through Waverly to the south edge of downtown Indianapolis at Meridian and South Streets. This was one of the routes of the Dixie Highway through Indianapolis, and would later become part of SR 37 in 1926.

State Road 31: In 1920, when this road was originally created, it turned south to connect to the National Road west of Plainfield. It had followed the Rockville Road from Montezuma to Danville, then turned southeasterly to meet State Road 3. By 1923, the road was moved from what would later become part of what is now SR 39 to continuing on the Rockville Road into Marion County. State Road 31 would meet the National Road outside the city limits of Indianapolis at what is now the intersection of Holt Road and Washington Street. It would become US 36 before it was extended along the new section of what is now Rockville Road to the intersection at Eagle Creek with Washington Street.

State Road 37: One of two state road numbers that still served Indianapolis after the road numbers were changed in October 1926 (the other being State Road 31). The original State Road 37 left Marion County in a northeasterly direction on its way to Pendleton, Anderson and Muncie. Inside the city limits, the street name was Massachusetts Avenue. When it reached the city limits, the name of the road changed to Pendleton Pike. This still occurs today, with the name change at the old city limits at 38th Street. In October 1926, the number of this road would change to State Road 67.

There were two other major state roads in Marion County, but they weren’t part of the state highway system until after the Great Renumbering. One was the Crawfordsville State Road, part of the original Dixie Highway, connecting Indianapolis to Crawfordsville via Speedway, Clermont, Brownsburg, and half a dozen other towns. It would be added to the state highway system by 1929 as State Road 34. The number would change later to US 136.

The other road was the original Fort Wayne State Road, also known as the Noblesville State Road, but even more commonly called the Allisonville Road. It would be added to the state highway system in 1932 as State Road 13. Less than a decade later, its number would be changed to the more familiar State Road 37.